Uber Freight and Aurora are “deepening” their autonomous-truck pilot with a new 600-mile lane between Dallas/Fort Worth and El Paso. Weekly hauls began last month for packing solutions distributor Veritiv and will continue through and beyond the 2022 holiday season.
The pilot provides critical first-hand learnings around autonomous truck deployment, creating a blueprint for how the Aurora Driver will be integrated, safely deployed, and scaled across the Uber Freight network in the coming years. Testing during this peak season also highlights autonomous trucks’ potential impact when demand quickly fluctuates.
This collaboration brings together Aurora Horizon, Aurora’s autonomous trucking service, with Uber Freight’s logistics network to unlock autonomous volume for carriers.
“Our extensive and efficient digital marketplace is a key ingredient for autonomous freight deployment,” said Lior Ron, CEO of Uber Freight.
In the pilot, packaging products and goods are autonomously driven to Veritiv warehouses, including retailers, schools, and healthcare providers, in western Texas and New Mexico. These packages are autonomously transported more than 600 miles between Aurora’s terminals with on-time delivery, which is critical during the holiday season.
The three companies will closely monitor and examine data on delivery efficiency, transit times, operations at the transfer hubs, autonomous capabilities and performance, and customer satisfaction.
“Veritiv’s next-generation supply chain strategy is to create and sustain a competitive advantage in operations with innovative and efficient technologies,” said Mike Walkenhorst, Veritiv SVP of global operations and developing businesses. “This autonomous vehicle pilot aligns with our strategy to assess new technologies to determine the best fit for our business and our customers.”
Uber Freight’s multiphase commercial autonomous trucking pilot began in December 2021 to better understand how the Aurora Driver will help carriers maximize fleet utilization, broaden opportunities to safely haul goods, and streamline supply operations.
The pilot continues to grow, with autonomous loads more than doubling over the past year. This latest expansion in Texas now unlocks a longer lane for further autonomous trucking testing and insights across different operating models, which Aurora will incorporate into its subscription service for carriers
“The holidays are a challenging time for the logistics industry. We’re crafting Aurora Horizon to help carriers of all sizes alleviate some of the supply chain pressures that typically accompany them,” said Sterling Anderson, chief product officer and co-founder of Aurora. “Deploying our technology with the Uber Freight team over this 600-mile trip at the peak of the season is an outgrowth of our mutual commitment to ensure that Aurora Horizon can enable carriers of all sizes to safely and efficiently haul freight 24/7/365 on the Uber Freight network.”
These autonomous assets are deployed alongside human drivers in a hybrid hub-to-hub model, with self-driving trucks handling the long-haul middle mile and local carriers from the Uber Freight platform on the shorter first-and last-mile hauls.
In an announcement, Uber Freight said it is “excited to continue innovating and expanding our autonomous pilot programs in 2023, enabling more shippers to begin moving freight autonomously in the American Southwest and beyond as this technology further integrates into carriers’ operations.”